1902 Encyclopedia > Mohammedanism (Islam) > The Abbasids

(Part 6)


The Abbasids

1.From the death of Merwan may be reckoned the accession of the ‘Abbasid dynasty to the Caliphate, which thus returned to the hands of the grand-nephews of the Prophet. Abu ‘l’Abbas, whose proper name was ‘Abdallah, and who afterwards received the surname of Saffah, was, as has been said above, a man of energetic will, who hesitated at nothing to ensure the triumph of his dynasty. When he caused himself to be proclaimed Caliph at Cufa, one of hispartisans, Abu Salama, who had till then believed that Abu’l-Abbas was working to restore the posterity of ‘Ali to the throne, and not to gain possession of the empire for himself, hesitated to take the oath of obedience to the new Caliph. Abu’-Abbas immediately resolved on his destruction, but fearing that Abu Salama might have a secret understanding with the conqueror of Khorasan, he began by sending his own brother Abu Ja’far into that province to sound Abu Moslim. The latter loudly disclaimed any alliance with Abu Salama, and, that no suspicion might rest upon him, he sent a confidential agent to Cufa, and had Abu Salama assassinated. Still further to prove his zeal for the house of ‘Abbas, Abu Molsim also got rid of Solaiman b., Kathir, another ‘Abbasid emissary, whom he suspected of partiality towards the family of ‘Ali. On his side, Abu ‘l-Abbas caused ‘Abdallah b. Mo’awiya, an adherent of ‘Ali’s family , to be treacherously slain, though he had distinguished himself in the wars against Merwan. As for the Omayyads, they were systematically followed up and put to death. The new Caliph desired t exterminate that family, not only for the sake of revenge, but also that he might deprive the Syrians of any pretect for fresh insurrections. In fact, hardly had Abu’l-Abbas been proclaimed Caliph at Cufa, when the Omayyad governor of Kinnesrin, Abu l’Ward b. Kauthar, notwithstanding that he had taken the oath to the new sovereign gave the signal for revolt in the name of the Omayyads. Abu’l’Abbas immediately ordered his uncle ‘Abdallah b. ‘Ali, who had been made governor of Palestine, to act with the utmost rigor against all members of the Omayyad family on whom he could lay his hands. That he might let none of them escape, ‘Abballah pretended to grant an amnesty to all Omayyads who should come in and acknowledge the new Caliph, and even promised them the restitution of all their property. Ninety members of that unfortunate family allowed themselves to be entrapped by these specious promises, and ‘Abballah, on pretence of sealing the reconciliation of the two parties, invited them to a banquet. Nut when they were all collected, a body of executioners rushed into the hall, and slew the Omayyads with blows from whips and rods. A grandson of Hisham, ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Mo’awiya, who had taken refuge in Africa, alone escaped this massacre. It was he who, at a later date, founded in Spain the Omayyad dynasty of Cordova. The cruelty of the ‘Abbasids excited a feeling of horror in the whole of Syria, and the revolt soon became general. Aby ‘l-Ward b. Kauthar found himself at the head of forty thousand men, and pitched gis camp at Marj al-Alhram, a plain near Kinnesrin. The revolt spread even to Mesopotamia and ‘Irak. One of Merwan’s former generals, Ishak b. Moslim, laid siege to Harran, while Yazid b. Hobaira, formerly governor of ;Irak, raised an insurrection at Wasit. In Khorasan also, as many as thirty thousand malcontents took up arms against Abu Moslim. Notwithstanding thius formidable display, Abu Moslim. Notwithstanding this formidable display of force, the ‘Abbasids remained conquerors. In Syria, ‘Abdallah b. ‘Ali beat Abu l’-Ward at Marj al-Akhram. Abu Ja’far, brother of the Caliph, compelled Ishak b. Moslim and Yazid b. Hobaira in succession to submit. Lastly, Abu Moslim quieted the rising in Khorasan. Mosul also attempted an insurrection, but Yahya, a brother of the Caliph, quenched the revolt in streams of blood. All the provinces being thus reduced to peace, the new Caliph distributed them among the principal members of his family and his best generals. To his brother Abu Ja’far he gave a part of Mesopotamia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia; to his uncle ‘Abdallah b. ‘Ali, Syria; to his uncle Dawud, Arabia, Hijaz, Yamama, and Yemen; to his cousin ‘Isa b. Musa, the province of Cufa. Abu Moslim continued in possession of the government of Khorasan, Transoxiana, and a part of Farsistan. Egypt was entrusted to Abu ‘Aun. Another uncle of the Caliph Solaiman b. ‘Ali, received the government of Basra, with Bahrain and ‘Oman. Lastly, the province of Mosul was taken from the cruel Yahya, and granted to one of the uncles of Abu ‘l-Abbas, Isma’il b. ‘Ali, who received besides the government of Ahwaz. In Sind, the Omayyad governor had succeeded in maintaining himself, but was defeated by an army sent against him under Musa b. Ka’b, and the black standard of the ‘Abbasids was raised over the city of Mansura. If we omit Africa and Spain in describing this division of the provinces of the empire, it is because the ‘Abbasids never gained any real footing in Spain, while Africa remained in only nominal subjection to the new dynasty.

Abu ‘l-Abbas, after having definitely established his power, left the town of Hashimiya and fixed his residence at Anbvar, where he died on the 13th of Dhu’I-Hijja, A.H. 136 (9TH June 754).

2. Abu’l-‘Abbas had designated as his successors, first Abu Ja’far, and after him his cousin ‘Isa b. Musa. At the moment of the death of Abu’l-Abbas, Abu Ja’far, who then assumed the title of al-Mansur, "the Victorious," was not in ;Irak. He had undertaken the leadership of the pilgrims who had started on the journey ot Mecca, and among whom figured the celebrated Abu Moslim. ‘Abdllah b. ‘Ali, uncle of Abu ‘l-‘Abbas, dissatisfied at having been excluded from the succession, took advantage of this absence to revolt. Having raised an army and proclaimed himself Caliph, he marched against Harran and laid siege to it. On receiving this news, Abu Ja’far hastened to return to Anbar in company with Abu Moslim, whom he placed at the head of his troops, and sent against the rebel. At the approach of Abu Moslim, ‘Abdallah, who had among his troops a body of seventeen thousand men of Khorasan, fearing that they might declare for Abu Moslim, had them all slaughtered, as the historians assert, by his Syrians, and then hastened to meet his enemy. The two armies met at Nisibis, and after a number of skirmishes, a decisive engagement took place on the 7th of Jomadi II., A.H. 137 (28th November 754). ‘Abdallah was defeated and compelled to submit to Al-Mansur, who spared his life. The new and brilliant service thus rendered by Abu Moslim to his sovereign ough to have placed him even higher in the favor of Mansur than he already stood. On the contrary, it was the cause of his ruin. The Caliph wished to commit the task of maintaining order in Syria to Abu Moslim; but the latter refused to give up his government of Khorasan, where he enjoyed an extraordinary reputation, and possessed numerous adherents, and, instead of obeying the order of the Caliph, directed his march towards the East. Thenceforth, Manur looked on him only as a dangerous rebel, and sought for means of getting rid of him. On pretence of conferring with him on business of state, he induced him to come to Madain (the ancient Ctesiphon), caused him to be put to death by his guards, and ordered his body to be thrown into the Tigris. Thus miserably perished the real founder of the ‘Abbasid dynasty, after having accomplished his work, which, as the historian assert, cost the lives of more than 600,000 men. Notwithstanding the defeat of ‘Abdallah b. ‘Ali and the murder of Abu Moslim, the spirit of rebellion was not yet broken. Risings, took place in Mesopotamia and to a still greater extent in Khorasan; and the Caliph’s troops wre repeatedly beaten by the rebels; but order was at last-re-established by mansur’s generals, by Khazim b. Khozaima in Mesopotamia, and by Mohammed b. al ‘Ash-ath in Khorasan.

About the same time Africa and Spain escaped from the dominion of the Eastern Caliphate; the former for a season, the latter permanently. The cause of the revolt of Africa was as follows: As soon as Mansur ascended the throne, he wrote to Abd al-Rahamn, announcing the death of Abu ‘l-Abbas, and requiring him to take the oath of allegiance. ‘Abd al-Rahman sent in his adhesion to the new Caliph, and added a few presents of little value. The Caliph was so much dissatisfied that he replied by a threatening letter which excited the anger of ‘Abd al-Rahman. He called the people together at the hour of prayer, mounted the pulpit, publicly cursed Mansur, and then declared his deposition from the Caliphate. He next caused a circular letter to be written, commanding all Maghrebins to refuse obedience to the Caliph; and this letter was circulated and read from the pulpit throughout the whole extent of the Maghrib (the West). A brother of ‘Abd al-Rahman, Ilyas, saw in this revolt an opportunity of obtaining the government of Africa for himself. Seconded by many of the inhabitants of Kairawan, who had remained faithful to the cause of the ‘Abbasids, he attacked his brother, slew him, and proclaimed himself governor in his stead. This revolution in favor of the ‘Abbasids was, however, of no long duration. Habib, the eldest son of ‘Abnd al-Rahman, had fled on the night of his father’s murder, and Ilyas caused him to be pursued, with the object of transporting him to Andalusia. Habib was captured, but the vessel which was to convey him to Spain having been detained in port by stress of weather, the partisans of independence took arms, rescued Habib, and prepared to resist Ilyas, who was marching against them at the heads of an army. Under these circumstances a fortunate idea occurred to Habib. He challenged his uncle Ilyas to single combat. Ilyas hesitated, but his own soldiers compelled him to accept the challenge. He measured arms with Habib, and was laid prostrate by him with a thrust of his lance. The party of independence thus triumphed, and several years elapsed before the ‘Abbasid general, Al-Aghlab, was able to enter Kairawan, and regain possession of Africa in the name of the Eastern Caliph. From this time forward, it must be added, Africa only nominally belonged to the ‘abbasids; for under the Caliphate of harun al-Rashid, Ibrahim, the son of Al-Aghlab, who was invested with the government of Africa, founded in that province a distinct dynasty, that of the Aghlabites.

Coincidently with the revolt in Africa, the independent Caliphate of the Western Omayyads was founded in Spain. The long dissensions which had preceded the fall of that dynasty in the east, had already prepared the way for the independence of a province so distant from the center of the empire. Every petty emir there tried to seize sovereign power for himself, and the people groaned under the consequent anarchy. Weary of these commotions, the Arabs of spain at last came to an understanding among themselves for the election of a Caliph, and their choice fell upon the last survivor of the Omayyads, ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Mo’awoya, grandson of the Caliph Hisham. This prince was wandering in the deserts of Africa, pursued by his implacable enemies, but everywhere protected and concealed by the desert tribes, who pitied his misfortunes and respected his illustrious origin. A deputation from Andalusia sought him out in Africa, and offered him the Caliphate of Spain, which he accepted with joy. On 25th September, A.D. 755, ‘Abd al-Rahman landed in the Iberian Peninsul, where he was universally welcomed, and speedily founded at Cordova the Western Omayyad Caliphate, with which this history has no further concern.

While Mansur was thus losing Africa and Spain, he was trying to take from the Greeks the city of Malatiya, which, from the importance of its situation, was looked on as the key of Asia Minor. In A.H. 139-140 (A.D. 756-757), a Moslim army of 70,000 men invested the place, and, after a vigorous siege, Malatiya was taken by assault. After this success the Moslems marched through Cilicia, entered Pamphylia, and cut to pieces a Greek army on the banks of the Melas. The Greeks, asked and obtained a seven years’ truce, which Mansur was the more disposed to grant because new and very serious troubles had been stirred up in his empire by certain sectraries of Khorasan, called Rawandis. These Rawandis, like many other Persian sectaries, admitted a number of dogmas completely foreign to Islam, such as the transmigration of souls and the incarnation of the Deity as a man. They believed, for instance, as historians assure us, that divine honors ought to be paid to the Caliph Mansur. They had their name from Rawand, a city near Isfahan, where the sect originated. A great number of these sectaries had repaired to Hashimiya, the residence of the Caliph, and there persisted in marching in procession round his palace, as if it had been the Ka’ba. Mansur, refusing to receive this impious homage, caused the principal chiefs of the sect to be seized and thrown into prison. The Rawandis immediately rose in revolt, broke open the prison doors, rescued their chiefs, and pushed their audacity so far as to besiege the Caliph in his own palace. Very fortunately for Mansur, the populace declared against the Rawandis and massacred them; but from that time forward he took a dislike to the city of Hashimiya, and resolved to choose another residence. He had at first thought of fixing his place of abode at Cufa; but he remembered the fickle character of the inhabitants, and decided on founding an entirely new city on the banks of the Tigris. His choice fell upon a spot near the ancient Ctesiphon, the capital of the Sassanids, called Baghdad. There he himself laid the first stone of the city which was to be the center of the civilized world as long as the Caliphate lasted. A revolt, however, of some importance soon called Mansur’s attention from the building of Baghdad. The descendants of ‘Ali, who had had reason to think that the ‘Abbasids were laboring for their advancement, were now cruelly undeceived. In A.H. 145 (A.D. 762-763), Mohammed Mahdi, great-grandson of Hosain, and surnamed Al-Nafs al-Zakiya ("the pure soul"), collected a large number of adherents at Medina, and had himself proclaimed Caliph. The governor of Cufa, ‘Isa b. Musa, received orders to march against him, and entered Arabia. The partisans of Ali were defeated, and Mohammed Mahdi fell in battle. But meanwhile his brother Ibrahim had gone to Basra, and had there succeeded in exciting a revolt, in presence of which the ‘Abbasid governor had been obliged to capitulate. The adherents of ‘Ali, emboldened by this success, spread themselves over Irak, and obtained possession of several places, among which was the city of Wasit. Ibrahim was already advancing towards Cufa, at the head of a strong army, when ‘Isa b. Musa, who had been hastily recalled from Arabia, threw himself in his way. A terrible conflict took place. At last Ibrahim fell, pierced by an arrow, and, in spite of the desperate efforts of his followers, his body, remained in the hands of the enemy. The partisans of ‘Ali then dispersed, and never to again ventured to have recourse to arms.

The Caliph was highly delighted when he heard of the decisive victory gained by ‘Isa, but, far from rewarding his valiant cousin, he tried to compel him to renounce his right of succession to the Caliphate, with the view of substituting as heir-preumsptive his own son Mohammed. ‘Isa at first energetically refused to abandon his rights; but Mansur did not hesitate at a shameless deception, and produced false witnesses, who swore that "Isa had waived his claim in favor of Mohammed b. Mansur. However unwillingly, Isa was obliged to yield his priority to Mohhamed, but it was understood that, in case of the death of the latter, the succession should return to ‘Isa. One of the false witnesses was, it is asserted, Khalid b. barmak, the head of that celebrated Pesina family the Barmecides, which played so important a part in the reign of Harun al-Rahid. To this Khalid, Mansur had entrusted the elevated post of minister of finance.

In A.H. 158 (A.D. 774-775), Mansur, feeling the decline of his powers, resolved to undertake for the last time the pilgrimage to Mecca. At he last station on the route he had a fall from his horse, and died at the gate of the Holy City. He was nearly seventy years of age, and had reigned for twenty-two years. He was buried at Mecca.

3. Mohammed b. Mansur was at Baghdad when he received the news of his father’s death, and hastened to have himself proclaimed Caliph. He then took the title of Mahdi ("the well-directed"). To make his accession welcome to his subjects, he began by granting an amnesty to a great number of persons who had incurred the anger of Mansur, and had been thrown into prison. Among these was a certain Dawud b. Ya’kub, whom Mahdi afterwards made his prime minister. But, on the other hand, Mahdi did not choose to confirm in their posts the provincial governors in whom his father had placed confidence; he supplied their places by creatures of his own. These changes displeased the people of Khorasan, who revolted under the leadership of a certain Yusuf b. Ibrahim, surnamed Al-Barm. Mahdi sent against him his general Yazid b. Mazyad, who, after a desperate struggle, defeated Yuzuf, took him prisoner, and brought him in triumph to Baghdad, where he was put to the torture and crucified. Mahdi had been scarcely a year on the throne, when he resolved to accomplish the pilgrimage to Mecca, and at the same time to visit the tomb of his father. Leaving his eldest son Musa as governor of Baghdad, he set off, accompanied by his second son Harun and a numerous suite. The chroniclers relate that the Calpih had ordered a great number of camels to be laden with snow, and that he reached Mecca without having exhausted this store. Immediately on his arrival in the Holy City, he applied himself, at the request of the inhabitants, to the renewal of the veils which covered the exterior walls of the Ka’ba. For a very long time these veils had been placed one over another, no care having been taken to remove the old covering when a new one was put on; so that the accumulated weight caused uneasiness respecting the stability of the walls. Mahdi caused the temple to be entirely stripped, and covered the walls against with a single veil of great richness. On this occasion he distributed considerable largesses among the Meccans. From Mecca, Mahdi went to Medina, where he caused the mosque to be enlarged. During his stay in that city he formed himself a guard of honor, composed of five hundred descendants of the Ansar, to whom he assigned lands in ‘Irak to be held in fief. Struck by the difficulties of every kind which had to be encountered by poor pilgrims who desired to repair to Mecca from Baghdad and its neighborhood, he resolved to come to their help. His first care was to have the road from Baghdad to Mecca laid out, and its divisions marked by milestones. He next ordered the construction at every stage of a kind of inn, where the poorer travelers might find shelter and food. He also saw to having new wells dug and cisterns built along the whole route.

Whilst he was devoting himself to these pious labors, he was menaced by a dangerous revolt in Khorasan. Its leader was a sectary called Hakim, surnamed Al-Mokanna or the Veiled One, because he never appeared in public without having his face covered with a mask. Al-Mokanna’ hoped to gather a great number of adherents around him, and to govern the province as absolutely as Abu Moslim had formerly done. His religious teaching consisted in the assertion that God had several times become incarnate among men, and that his last incarnation was Mokanna’ himself. Many Persians were seduced by his words, and still more by the hope of plundering the property of the Moslems, which Mokanna ‘promised to give up to them. The governor of Khorasan and several other generals who marched against these sectaries were defeated; but at last the Caliph charged a skillful captain, Sa’id al-Harashi,m with the direction of operations, and Sa’id, having compelled the impostor to throw himself into the city of Kash, soon reduced him to a choice between surrender and death. Mokanna’ preferred the latter alternative, and took poison.

These disturbance did not suffice to turn Mahdi’s thoughts from the hereditary enemy of the Caliphate. Every summer he sent expeditions into Asia Minor against the Greeks; but these were not successful, and the Caliph decided on leading his army in person. Having levied in Khorasan a large number of those mountaineers who had always distinguished themselves by their valor, he assembled his army in the plains of Baradan, on the banks of the Tigris, and commenced his march A.H. 163, taking with him his second son Harun, and leaving his eldest son Musa as governor of Baghdad. The latter was also designated as his successor in the Caliphate, Isa b. Musa having definitely renounced the throne. Mahdi traversed Mesopotamia and Syria, entered Cilicia, and established himself on the banks of the Jaihan (Pyramus). Thence he dispatched an expeditionary force, at the head of which his son Harun was nominally placed. In reality, that prince being too young to direct military operations, the chief command was exercised by his tutor, the Barmecide Yahya b. Khalid. Harun took the fortress of Samalu after a siege of thirty-eight days. In consewuence of this feat of arms, Mahdi made Harun governor of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Two years later was broke out afresh between the Moslems and the Greeks. Leo IV., Emperor of Constantinople, had recently died, leaving the crown to Constantine Porphyrogenitus. This prince was then only ten years old, and would have been incapable of governing. His mother Irene took the regency on herself. By her orders an army of 90,000 men, under the command of Michael Lachonodracon, entered Asia Minor. The Moslems, on their side, invaded Cilicia under the orders of ‘Abd al-Kabir, but were defeated by the Greeks. Mahdi then recalled his son Harun, and enjoined on him to avenge the failure of the arms of Islam., Harun assembled an army of nearly 100,000 men, and conceived the project of carrying the war to the very gates of Constantinople. The patrician Nicetas, who sought to oppose his march, was defeated by Harun’s general, Yazid b. Mazyad, and forced to take refuge at Nicomedia. Harun marcehe through Asia Minor, and pitched his camp on the shores of the Bosphorus. Irene took alarm, sued for peace, and obtained it, but on humiliating conditions. This brilliant success increased Mahdi’s affection for Harun to such an extent that he resolved, a few years later, to declare him his successor instead of Musa. It was necessary first to obtain from Musa a renunciation of his rights; and for this purpose his father recalled him from Jorjan, where he was then engaged on an expedition against the rebels of Tabaristan. Musa, who had had information of his father’s intentions, refused to obey this order. Mahdi determined to march in person against his rebellious son (A.H. 169), and set out, accompanied by Harun. But, after his arrival at Masabadhan, a place in Persian ‘Irak or Jabal, the Caliph died suddenly, at the age of only forty-three. There are two versions of the cause of his death: some attribute it to an accident met with in hunting; others believe him to have been poisoned. If this was really the case, although we have no proofs against Musa, we may reasonably suspect him of having been privy to the sudden death of his father.

4. Mahdi having died before he could carry out his plan for assuring the throne to Harun, the succession naturally fell to Musa, and he was proclaimed Caliph at Baghdad in the year of his father’s death. He took the tithe of Hadi (He who directs). Harun made no opposition to the accession of his brother, and the army which had accompanied Mahdi returned peacefully from Jabal to Baghdad.

The accession of a new Caliph doubtless appeared to the partisans of the house of ‘Ali a favorable opportunity for a rising. Hosain b. ‘Ali, a descendant of that Hasan who had formerly renounced his pretensions to the Caliphate through fear of Mo’awiya I., raised an insurrection at Medina with the support of numerous adherents, and had himself proclaimed Caliph. But having unfortunately conceived the idea of going on pilgrimage to Mecca, he was attacked at Fakh by a party of ‘Abbasids, and perished in the combat. His cousin Idris b. ‘Abdallah succeeded in escaping and fled to Egypt, whence he passed into Morocco; and there, at a later period, his son founded the Idrisite dynasty.

Hadi, as may be supposed, had never been able to forget that he had narrowly escaped being supplanted by his brother. He formed a plan for excluding Harun from the Caliphate, and transmitting the succession to his own son Ja’far. He neglected no possible means of attaining this object, and obtained the assent of his ministers, and of the principal chiefs of his army, who took the oath of allegiance to Ja’far. Only Yahya b. Khalid the Barmecide, Harun’s former, tutor, absolutely refused to betray the interested of his pupil. In a discussion which took place between him and the Caliph on this subject, Yahya showed such firmness and boldness that Hadi resolved on his death, and Harthama b. A’yan, one of the bravest generals of the empire, had already received the order to go and take his head, when the Caliph died suddenly. One of those terrible domestic dramas had been acted of which so many were afterwards seen in the palace of the Caliphs. The mother of Hadi and Harun was Khaizoran, a haughty and intriguing woman,. whose aim it was to get the direction of affairs into her own hands, leaving Hadi only the shadow of power. Her influence ove all matters of government was so well understood that her door was beset all day by a crowd of petitioners, who neglected the Caliph and preferred to address their requests to her. Hadi soon became indignant at the subordinate part which his mother wished him to play, and after a dispute on the matter, he attempted to poison her. Khaizoran, hoping to find a more submissive instrument of her will in her second son, and wishing to protect herself against fresh attempts at murder, caused Hadi to be taken unawares and smothered with cushions by two young slaves whom she had presented to him. (Radi I. A.H. 170, Sept. A.D. 786).

5. We have now reached the most celebrated name among the Arabian Caliphs, celebrated not only in the East, but in the West as well, where the stories of the Thousand and One Nights have made us familiar with that world which the narrators have been pleased to represent to us in such brilliant colors.

On the unexpected death of Hadi, the generals and ministers who had declared against Harun, perceiving that popular favor did not incline to the son of the late Caliph, hastened to rally round the son of Khaisoran; and harun, surnamed Al-Rashid (The Upright), ascended the throne without opposition. His first act was to choose as prime minister his former tutor, the faithful Yahya b. Khalid, and to confide important posts to the two sons of Yahya, Fadl and Ja’far, the former of whom was also his own foster-brtoher. The Barmecide family were endued in the highest degree with thosequalities of generosity and liberality which the Arabs prized so highly. Thus the chroniclers are never wearied in their praises of the Barmacides. Loaded with all the burdens of government, Yahya brought the most distinguished abilities to the exercise of his office. He put the frontiers in a state of defence, and supplied all that was wanting for their security. He filled the public treasury, and carried the splendor of the throne to the highest point. The following anecdote will show what an amount of earnest affection the Barmecide family succeeded in winning:-

After Harun, as we shall relate farther on, had ruined the Barmecides of whose influence he was jealous, he forbade the poets to compose elegies on the disgrace of the family, and commanded that all who disobeyed this order should be punished. One day, as one of the soldiers of the Caliph’s guard was passing near a ruined building, he perceived a man holding a paper in his hand, and reciting aloud, and with many tears, a lament over the ruin of the palace of the Barmecides. The soldier arrested the man and led him to the palace of the Caliph, who ordered the culprit to be brought before him, and asked him why he had infringed his ordes. "Prince," replied the man, "let me relate my history to thee; when thou hast heard it, do with me as thou wilt. I was an inferior clerk under Yahya b. Khalid. He said to me one day: ‘Thou must invite me to thy house.’ ‘My lord,’ I replied, ‘I am quite unworthy of such an honor, and my house is not fit to receive thee.’ ‘No,’ said Yahya, ‘ thou must absolutely do what I require of thee.’ ‘In that case,’ answered I, ‘grant me some little delay that I may make suitable arrangements.’ Yahya granted me some months. As soon as I informed him that I was ready, he repaird to my abode, accompanied by his two sons, Fadl and Ja’far, and by some of his most intimate friends. Scarcely had he dismounted from his horse when he begged me to give him something to eat. I offered some roasted chickens. When he had eaten his fill, he went over the whole of my house, and having seen it all, he asked me to show him the buildings attached to it. ‘My lord,’ said I, ‘thou hast seen everything.’ ‘No,’ said he, ‘thou hast another house. in vain I assured him that I had but one; he persisted in his assertion, and, sending for a mason, ordered him to make an opening in the wall. ‘My lord, said I, ‘may I venture thus to make my way into my neighbors house?’ ‘It matters not,’ replied he. When a doorway had been opened, he passed through it, followed by his two sons, and I went after him. We entered a delightful garden, well planted and watered by fountains. In this garden stood a beautiful house with pavilions adorned with furniture and carpets, and filled with slaves of both sexes, all of perfect beauty. ‘All this is thine, said Yahya to me. I kissed his hands and poured out my thanks to him; and then I learned that on the very day when he had spoken to me of inviting him he had bought the land adjoining to my house, and had had it laid out for me without my ever suspecting it. I had certainly noticed that building was going on, but I was far from imagining that all this was intended for me. Yahya next addressed himself to Ja’far and said: ‘Here are certainly ahouse and servants, but who will provide for their support. ‘I’ replied Ja’far, ‘will give him a farm and its dependencies, and will send him the deed of gift.’ ‘Very well,’ continued Yahya; ‘but how is he to live until her shall receive the revenue of his property?’ ‘I owe him a thousand pieces of gold,’ said Fadl, ‘and I will send them to his house.’ Thanks to these magnificent gifts. I afterwards gained great wealth.- wealth which I still enjoy. Since that day, I have never lost any opportunity of singing the praises of that noble family. And now Prince, slay me if thou wilt; I am ready to die." Harun, affected by this tale, let the man depart, and in future forbate no man to weep for the tragical end of the sons of Barmak. (El-Fachri, ed. Ahlwardt, p. 237).

Although the administration of Harun’s states was committed to skillful hands, yet the first years of his long reign were not free from troubles. Towards the year 176 (A.D. 792-793), a member of the house of ‘Ali, named Yahya b. ‘Abdallah, who had taken refuge at Dailam on the shores of the Caspian Sea, succeeded informing a powerful party, and publicly announced his pretensions to the Caliphate. Harun immediately sent an army of 50,000 men against the rebel, under the command of Fadl. Reluctant, however, to fight against a descendant of the Prophet, Fadl first attempted to induce him to submit, by promising him safety for his life and a brilliant position at the court of Baghdad. Yahya accepted these conditions, but he required that the Caliph should send him letters of pardon countersigned by the highest legal authorities and the principal personages of the empire. Harun consented to do so, and Yahya, furnished with the Caliph’s safe-conduct, repaired to Baghdad, where he met with a splendid reception. At the end of some months, however, he was calumniously accused of conspiracy, and the Caliph, seizing this opportunity of ridding himself of a rival who might prove dangerous, threw him into prison, where he was soon after put to death. Dreading fresh insurrections, Harun thought it well to secure the person of another descendant of ‘Ali, Musa b. Ja’far, who was resident at Medina, where he enjoyed the highest consideration. The unfortunate man was sent to Baghdad, and there died by poison.

Meanwhile Harun did not forget the hereditary enemy against whom he had already fought. Under his reign all the strong places of Syria were formed into a special province, which received the name of ‘Awasim. The charge of fortifying the city of tarsus was committed to Faraj, the chief of the Turkish soldiers, whom the Caliphs were beginning to employ, and who were at a later period. To become their masters. The ancient Anazarbus was rebuilt, and garrisoned with a military colony from Khorasan. Thanks to these measures, the Moslem armies were able to advance boldly into Asia Minor. Ishak b. Solaiman entered Phrygia and defeated the Greek governor of that province. A Moslem fleet destroyed that of the Greeks in the Gulf of Satalia. Harun in person invaded Asia Minor in the year 181 (A.D. 797-798), and during the following years his generals gained continual victories over the Byzantines, so that Irene was compelled to sue for peace. An attack by the Khazars called the Caliphs attention from his successes in Asia Minor. That people had made an irruption into Armenia, and their attack had been so sudden that the Moslems were unable to defend themselves, and hundred thousand of them had been reduced to captivity. Two valiant generals, Khoazima b. Khazim and Yazid b. Mazyad, marched against the Khazars and drove them out of Armenia.

In the midst of the cares of war, Harun did not forget his religious duties, and few years passed without his making the pilgrimage. In one of these piglirmages, A.H. 186 (A.D. 802), he was accompanied by his two eldest sons, Mohammed and ‘Abdallah, and having determined to fix the ordker of succession in so formal a manner as to take away all pretext for future contentions, he executed a deed by which he appointed Mohammed his immediate heir; after him ‘Abdallah and after ‘Abdallah a third of his sons, named Kasim. Mohammed received the surname of Al-Amin (The Sure), ‘Abdallah that of Al-Ma’mun (he in whom men trust), and Kasim that of Mo’tamin billah (He who trusts in God). Harun further stipulated that Ma’mum should have as his share, during the lifetime of his brother, the government of the eastern part of the empire. Each of the parties concerned swore to observe faithfully every part of this deed, which the Caliph caused to be hung up in the Ka’ba, imagining that it would be thus guaranteed against all violation on the part of men. These precautions were to be rendered vain by the perfidy of Amin. We shall see hereafter how he kept his oath, and how he expiated his treachery by death.

It was in the following year, at the very moment when the Barmecides thought their position most secure, that Harun brought sudden ruin upon them. The causes of their disgrace have been differently stated by the annalists. Some relate that the Caliph, preferring to all other society that of his sister ‘Abbasa and of Ja’far b. Yahya, resolved to unite them in marriage, inorder to be able to bring them together on his presence without a breach of etiquette. He meant, however, that Ja’far should continue to be only the nominal husband of his sister. Ja’far accepted this condition, but it was not long before he forgot it, and the Caliph learned that his sister hag given birth to a son. This, it is said, was the cause of Ja’far’s disgrace, which involved his father and his brother. This story may be true; but the principal cause of the fall of the Barmecides appears to have consisted in the abuses of power of which they had been guilty, and in the sovereign influence which they exercised on those around them. The Barmecides lived in a magnificent palace opposite to that of the Caliph. Seeing one day an extraordinary crowd around the dwelling of his first minister, Harun was moved to say: "Verily Yahya has taken all business into his own hands; he it is who really exercises surpreme power; as for me, I am Caliph only in name." This secret dissatisfaction was increased by a new act of disobedience on the part of Ja’far. Harun had ordered him to put to death secretly a member of the house of ‘Ali, whose intrigues he dreaded. Ja’far allowed the victim to escape, and afterwards swore to the Caliph that his orders had been executed. Soon after, however, information against him was given to Harun, who, after compelling Ja’far to acknowledged the truth, had his head struck off and brought to him by Masrur, the chief of his eunuchs. On the very next day Yahya, his son Fadl, and all the other Barmecides, were arrested and imprisoned; all their property was confiscated; and Harun chose as his prime minister Fadl b. Rabi, who had been his chamberlain.

In the same year, a revolution broke out at Constantinople, which overthrew the Empress Irene, and raised Nicephorus to power. The new emperor had scarcely ascended the throne, when he thought himself strong enough to refuse the payment of tribute, and wrote an insulting letter to Harun, who contented himself with replying: "Thou shalt not hear, but see, my answer." He then assembled an army, entered Asia Minor, and took Heraclea, plundering and burning along his whole line of march, till Nicephorus, in his alarm, sued for peace. Scarcely had the Caliph returned into winter quarters, when Nicephoris broke the treaty. Notwithstanding the rigor of the season, Harun retraced his steps, and this time Nicerphorus was compelled to observe his engagements. The year after, A.H. 189 (A.D. 804- 805), disturbances arose in Khorasan. They were caused by the malversations of the governor of that province, ‘Ali b. ‘Isa, and the Caliph went in person to Merv to judge of the reality of the complaints which had reached him. ‘Ali b. Isa hastened to meet the Caliph on his arrival at Ray. He brought with him a great quantity of presents, which he distributed with such profusion among the courtiers that every one found a thousand reasons for excusing his conduct. Harun confirmed him in his post and returned to Baghdad, through which, however, he only passed, and went on to Rakka on the Euphrates, a city which became his habitual residence. He did not long enjoy the repose which he went there to seek, for Nicephorus again broke the treaty of peace, and the caliph was obliged to take the field anew. Once more Nicephorus was beaten, and so completely that he was obliged to submit to the very harsh conditions which the victor imposed on him.

Two tears later, new disturbances broke out in Khorasan, where a certain Rati b. Laith had revolted. Harun set out again for that province, accompanied by his son Ma’mun. It was to be his last journey. He was attacked by a tumor in the abdomen, and struggled in vain against this malady, which carried him off a year after his departure, A.H. 193 (A.D. 808-809), just on his arrival at the city of Tus, the birthplace of the great epic poet of Persia, Firdausi. Harun was only forty-seven years of age.

6. On the death of Harun, his minister Fadl b. Rabi hastened to calltogether all the troops of the late Caliph, and to lead them back to Bagdhad, in order to place them in the hands of the new sovereign, Amin. He even led back the corps which was intended to occupy Khorasan, and which ought to have fallen to the share of Ma’mun, according to the testament of Harun. Fadl b. Rabi thus committed a serious violation of the rights of Ma’mum; but he cared little for this, being chiefly desirous of winning the confidence of the new Caliph. He was quite aware, however, that in this acting he was making Ma’mum his irreconcilable enemy; and he therefore purposed to use every endeavor to arouse against him the enmity of his brother Amin. He advised him to exclude Ma’mum from the succession, and the Caliph was weak enough to listen to him. Receving the order to resign his government of Khorasan and to repair to Baghdad, Ma’mum was greatly perplexed; but his tutor and vizier, Fadl b. Sahl, reanimated his courage, and pointed out to him that, if he obeyed the orders of the Caliph, certain death awaited him at Baghdad. Ma’mum resolved to hold out against Amin, and found pretexts for eluding the orders of his brother and reaming in Khorasan. Amin, in his anger, caused the testament of his father, which, as we have seen, was preserved in the Ka’ba, to be destroyed, declared, on his own authority, the rights of Ma’mum to the Caliphate to be forfeited, and caused the army to swear allegiance to his own son Musa, a child five years of age, on whom he bestowed the title of Natik bil-Hakk, "He who speaks according to truth" (A.H. 194, A.D. 809-810). On hearing the news, Ma’mum strong in the rightfulness of his claim, retaliated by suppressing the Caliph’s name in all public acts. Amin immediately dispatched to Khorsan an army of fitty thousand men, under the command of "Ali b. Isa. Ma’mum, on his side, raised troops among his faithful people of Khorsan, and entrusted their command to Tahir b. Hosain, who displayed remarkable abilities in the war that ensued. In the following year, the two armies met under the walls of Ray, and victory declared for Tahir. Ma’mum now no longer hesitated to take the title of Caliph. The year after, Amin placed in the field two new armies, commanded respectively by Ahmed b. Mazyad and ‘Abdallah b., Homaid b. Kahtaba. The skilful Tahir b. Hosain succeeded in creating divisions among the troops of his adversaries, and obtained possession, without striking a blow, of the city of Holwan, an advantage which placed him at the very gates of Baghdad. Ma’mum immediately sent Tahir reinforcements under the orders of Harthama b. A’yan, which enabled him to maintain a firm hold on all the conquered territory, and to continue his victorious march to the capital. Reverse naturally lead to fresh reverses. One after the other the provinces fell away from Amin, and he soon found himself in possession of Baghdad alone, which was speedily invested by the troops of Tahir and Harthama. That unfortunate capital, though blockaded on every side, made a desperate defence for two years. Ultimately the eastern part of the city fell into the hands of Tahir, and Amin, deserted by his followers, was compelled to surrender. He resolved to treat with Harthama, as he hated Tahir; but this step caused his ruin. Tahir learned by his spies that Harthama was to receive the Caliph in person, and gave orders to a body of horsemen to arrest Amin as he issued from Baghdad under cover of the night. on the banks of the Tigris, Harthama awaited Amin with a boat, but scarcely had the Caliph set foot in it, when the agents of Tahir poured on it a storm of arrows and stones. The boat sank, and the Caliph had to make his escape by swimming. But he was closely followed up, and had scarcely left the river when he fell into the hands of his enemies, who shut him up in a hut and went to inform Tahir of the capture. The victorious general immediately ordered him to be put to death, and the order was carried out. The head of the unfortunate Amin was cut off and sent to Ma’mum, A.H. 198. It was presented to him by his vizier, Fadl b. Sahl, surnamed Dhu’l-Riyasatain, or "the man with two governments," because his master had committed to him both the ministry of war and the general administration. Ma’mum, on seeing the head, hid his joy beneath a feigned display of sorrow.

7. On the day following that on which Amin had perished so miserably, Tahir caused Ma’mum to be proclaimed at Baghdad. The accession of this prince appeared likely to put an end to the evils of civil war, and to restore to the empire the order necessary for its prosperity. It was not so, however. The reign of Ma’mum-that reign on which art, science, and letters, under the patronage of the Caliph, threw so brilliant a luster-had a very stormy beginning. Ma’mum was in no haste to remove to Baghdad, but continued to make a Merv his temporary residence. In his gratitude to the tywo men to whom he owed his throne, he conferred on Tahir the government of Mesopotamia and Syria, and chose as prime minister of the empire Fadl b. Sahl, who had been already his vizier in the government of Khorasan. The adherents of ‘Ali seized on the elevation of Ma’mum to power as a pretext for fresh revolts at Mecca, at Medina, and in ‘Irak. At Cufa a certain Ibn Tabataba also broke out into open rebellion, and placed an army in the field under one of his partisans, Abu ‘l-Saraya. Hasan b. Sahl, brother of Ma’mum’s prime minister, who had been made governor of all the provinces conquered by Tahir, immediately sent troops against Cufa. They were defeated, and Abu’l-Saraya, encouraged by this first success, and no longer finding a secondary part sufficient for his ambition, poisoned his chief Ibn Tabataba, and put in his place another of the family of ‘Ali, Mohammed b. Mohammed, whom, on account of his extreme youth, he hoped to govern at his will. Fresh troops sent against Abu’l-Saraya fared no better than the first, and several cities of ‘Irak, as Basra, Wasit, and Madain, fell into the hands of the rebels. Abu ‘l-Saraya was already marching against Baghdad, when Hasan b. Sahl, in great alarm, hastily recalled Harthama b. A’yan, one of the heroes of the civil war, who was already on his way back to Merv. As soon as this general had returned from Khorasan, the face of affairs changed. The adherents of ‘Ali were everywhere driven back, and the whole of ‘Irak fell again into the hands of the ‘Abbasids. Cufa was taken by assault, and both Abu ‘l-Saraya and Mohammed b. Mohammed were made prisoners. The former had his head struck off; the latter was sent to Khorasan. The revolt in Arabia was also quickly stifled, and it might have been supposed that peace was about to be re-established. This, however, was by no means the case. The civil war had caused a swarm of vagabonds to spring, as it were, from underground at Baghdad. They proceeded to treat the capital as a conquered city; and such was their audacity that they plundered houses and carried off women and children at mid-day. It became necessary for all good citizens to organize themselves into a regular militia, in order to master these ruffians. Meanwhile, at Merv, Ma’mum was adopting a decision which fell like a thunderbolt on the ‘Abbasids. In A.D. 201 (A.D. 816-817), under pretence of putting an end to the continual revolts of the partisans of ‘Ali, and acting on the advice of his prime minister, Fadl, he publicly designated as his successor in the Caliphate ‘Ali b. Musa, a direct descendant of Hosain the son of "Ali, and proscribed black, the color of the ‘Abbasids, in favor of that of the house of ‘Ali, green. This step was well calculated to delight the followers of ‘Ali, but it naturally could not fail to exasperate the ‘Abbasids and their partisans. The people of Baghdad refused to take the oath to ‘Ali b. Musa as heir-presumptive, declared Ma’mum deposed, and elected his uncle Obrahim, son of Mahdi, to the Caliphate. The news reached the Caliph only indirectly, for his minister Fadl, desiring to leave Ma’mum only the shadow of power, kept all important events carefully from his knowledge. The eyes of the Caliph were opened, and he now perceived that Fadl had been treating him as a puppet. His anger knew no bounds. Fadl was one day found murdered, and ‘Ali b. Musa died suddenly. The historian bring to open accusation againstr Ma’mum of having got rid of these two pesonages; but it seems clear that it was not chance that did him such a seasonable service. Ma’mum of course affected the profoundest grief, and in order of disarm suspicion, appointed as his prime minister the brother of Fadl, Hasan b. Sahl, whose daughter Buran he also afterwards married. But on the other hand, in order to quiet the people of Baghdad, he wrote to them: "The cause of your dissatisfaction in the business of ‘Ali b. Musa no longer exists; since he who was the object of your resentment has just died." From that moment the pseudocaliph Ibrahim found himself deserted, and was obliged to seek safety in concealment. His precarious reign had, however, lasted nearly two years. Ma’mum now decided on making a public entry into Baghdad, but to show that he came as a master, he still displayed for several days the green flag of the house of ‘Ali, though at last, at the entreaty of his courtiers, he consented to resume the black. From this time the real reign of Ma’mum began, freed as he now was from the guardianship of Fadl. His general Tahir alone continued to excite his suspicions. Under the pretence that he could no longer endure the sight of the murderer of his brother, he removed Tahir to a distance by appointing him governor of Khorasan. Like most of the great Moslem generals, Tahir, it is said, conceived the project of creating an independent kingdom for himself. His death, A.H. 207, prevented its realization; but as his descendants succeeded him one after the other in the post of governor, he may be said to have really founded a dynasty in Khorasan. When, two years later, the impostor babak set up a communistic sect in Armenia and Azerbaijan, it was a son of Tahir, ‘Abdallah, who was commissioned by Ma’mum to put him down. Notwithstanding his abilioty, ‘Abdallah could not accomplish the task, and it was only under Ma’mum’s successor that Babak was taken and put to death.

Ever since Ma’mumm’s entry into Baghdad, the pseudocaliph Ibrahim had led a wandering life. He was arrested one night in Baghdad, under the disguise of a woman, and brought before Ma’mum. The latter generously pardoned him, and also granted an amnesty to the former minister of Amin, Fadl b. Rabi, although he had been the chief promoter of the terrible civil war which had so lately shaken the empire. After that time, Ibrahim the son of Mahdi lived peacefully at the court, cultivating the arts of singing and music, in which he excelled.
Tranquillity being now everywhere re-established, Ma’mum gave himself up, without hindrance, to his scientific and literary tastes. He caused works on mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and philosophy, to be translated from the Greek. It was also by his orders that two learned mathematicians undertook the measurement of a degree of the earth’s circumstance. Ma’mum interested himself, too, in questions of religious dogma. Shocked at the opinion which had spread among the Moslem doctors, that the Koran was the uncreated word of God, he published an edict commanding them to renounce this error. Several distinguished doctors, and, among others, the celebrated Ibn Hanbal, founder of one of the four orthodox Moslem sects, were obliged to appear before an inquisitorial tribunal; and as they persisted in their belief respecting the Koran, they were thrown into prison. Meanwhile, war having broken out between the Greeks and the Moslems, Ma’mum set out for Asia Minor, to put himself at the head of his army. On his arrival at Tarsus, he received from the governor of Baghdad the report of the tribunal of inquisition, and ordered that the culprits should be sent off to him. Happily for these unfortunate doctors, they had scarcely started on the road to the frontiers, when news of the Caliph’s death reached Baghdad. Ma’mum having bathed in the Podendon, a burning fever was the result, which brought him to the grave in A.H. 218 (A.D. 833). Before his death, he designated as his successor his brother Mo’tasim billah, (He who seeks defence in God), whom he had for a long time preferred to Mo’tamin.

8. The accession of the new Caliph Mo’tasim met at first with active opposition in the army, where a powerful party had been formed in favor of ‘Abbas, the son of Ma’mum. Thanks, however, to the disinterested conduct of that prince, civil war was averted. ‘Abbas publicly renounced all pretension to the Caliphate, and took the oath of allegiance to his uncle. Mo’tamin, the son of harun, imitated the conduct of ‘Abbas, and the whole army accepted Mo’tasim, who made his public entry into Bagdadh in the month of Ramadan 218.

The new Caliph, far from putting a stop to the persecution which had been directed against the orthodox doctors, took up and carried out the views of Ma’mum. The doctor Ibn Hanbal was beaten with rods and thrown into prison, together with several of his companions, and was not restored to liberty till the Caliphate of Motawakkil. This persecution had already prejudiced the people against Mo’tasim, and their discontent became more marked when the Caliph created a new body of troops, specially intended to watch over his person. This new guard was composed of Turks, an unbridled and undisciplined body of soldiery, who, moreover, held in open contempt the religious precepts of Islam. Tired of the excesses of every kind committed by the Turks, the people of Baghdad rose in insurrection, and Mo’tasim, not daring to act with severity either against his guard or the citizens, took the course of quitting the city. Leaving the government of the capital in the hands of his son Wathik billah (He who trust in God), he established himself with his guard at Samarra, a small place situated a few leagues above Baghdad, and changed its name to Sorra-man-ra’a (He rejoices who sees it). This resolution of Mo’tasim was destined to prove fatal to his dynasty; for it placed the Caliphs at the mercy of their Praetorians. In fact, from the time of Mo’tasim, the Caliphate became the plaything of the Turkish guard, and its decline was continuous. Some glorious feats of arms, however, were still performed under Mo’tasim. The sectary Babak was at last taken by Afshin, a Turkish general of the Caliph, in the year 223 9A.D. 837-838). Babak was carried to Baghdad, led through the city on the back of an elephant, and then delivered to the executioners, who cut off his arms and his legs. Afshin, however, was very ill rewarded for his services, for shortly afterwards the Caliphs had him put to death on a charge of heresy.

The death of Ma’mum had for the moment suspended hostilities with Constantinople; under Mo’tasim the war was rekindled. A valiant Greek, general, Manuel, who had incurred the displeasure of the Emperor Theophilus, took refuge with the Caliph, who eagerly welcomed him and gave him a command. Manuel began by reducing Lhorasan, which had rrisen in revolt, and Mo’tasim was so well satisfied with him that he thought of employing him against his own countrymen. This was precisely what Theophilus dreaded, and he took measure accordingly to bring back the banished general to his side. He sent an ambassador to Mo’tasim, under pretence of ransoming some Greek prisones; but the real object of his mission, which he contrived to communicate to Manuel, was the recall of that general. Manuel, feigning great animosity against his country, himself asked to be allowed to lead a Moslem army into Cappadocia. The Caliphs granted his request, and sent with him his own son Wathick billah. But, as soon as they reached the frontiers of Cappadocia, Manuel confessed to the young prince that his intention was to return to Constantinople, and quitted the army. Theophilus, taking advantage of the confusion into which the departure of Manuel had thrown the Moslems, made an incursion into Syria, laid waste that province as far as Zabatra, and returned loaded with booty. At the news of this disaster, Mo’tasim assembled a formidable army,. Estimated at more than two hundred thousand men, penetrated into Asiua Minor, beat the Greeks, and took the city of Amorium, which he ordered to be razed to the ground. A revolt which broke out at Baghdad in favor of his nephew ‘Abbas, the son of Ma’mum, compelled the Caliph to turn back. Mo’tasim had the unfortunate ‘Abbas arrested, and he was soon after found dead in his prison. Mo’tasim survived him only four years. He died at Sorra-man-ra’a, in A.H. (A.D. 841-842)

9. His son Wathik, who succeeded him, showed himself no less intolerant on the doctrinal question of the uncreated Koran. He carried his zeal to such a point that, on the occasion of an exchange of Greek against Moslem prisoners, in the year 231 (A.D. 845-846), he ordered that all the Moslem captives who would not declare their belief that the Koran was a human work, should be left in the hands of the enemy. The reign of Wathik billah was not otherwise marked by any very striking events He died in 232 (A.D. 846-847), after a reign of five years. As he had appointed no successor before his death, the principal personages of the state at first cast their eyes on his son Mohammed; but they had scarcely saluted him with the title of Caliph, when they changed their purpose, and offered the supreme power to Motawakkil ‘ala ‘llah (He who trusts to God), brother of Wathik. This prince was therefore elected in the same year in which Wathik died.
10. The first act of Motawakkil was an atrocious cruelty. He seized Mohammed b. ‘Abd al-Melik, his brother’s vizier, who had always been his enemy, and ordered him to be placed in a furnace bristling within with iron points, which was then raised to a red heat The Caliph looked on at the agonies of his victim, incessantly repeating: "Pity is a weakness." This had been the favorite maxim of the unfortunate vizier. An impostoe named Mohammed b. Farai had set himself up as a prophet, giving out that he was Moses risen from the dead. By means of this gross fabrication, he had contrived to attract twenty-seven followers. The Caliph had him seized, and condemned him to perpetual imprisonment; but first he compelled each of the followers of Mohammed to give the pretended prophet ten blows on the head with his fist; and the poor wretch expired under the hands of his own disciples. (A.H. 235, A.D. 849-850)

In the year of his elevation to the Caliphate, Motawakkil had regulated the succession to the empire in his own family, by designating as future Caliphs his three sons, Montasir billah (He who seeks help in God), Mo’tazz billah (Strong through God), and Mowayyad billah (Assisted by God). In acting thus, his object was to protest against the tendency of his predecessors to favor the house of ‘Ali, and to guard against the attainment of the Caliphate by any member of that house. Motawakkil displayed the most extreme hatred for the descendants of the Prophet. He even went so far as to destroy the chapel erected over the tomb of Hosain at Kerbela, and forbade the Shi’ites to visit the spot. Not content with attacking the liberty and the property of the descendants of ‘Ali, he insulted their belief, by taking buffoons into his pay, whose business it was to turn the person of ‘Ali into mockery. He also persecuted the Christians and the Jews; excluding them from all public employments, and obliging them to send their children to Moslem schools. In the year 237, a revolt broke out in Armenia. The Caliph sent the Turk Bugha against the rebels; but they met him with a vigorous resistance, and it was four years before peace was restored to the province. During that time the Greeks effected a descent on Egypt, and Damietta was taken and burned. Motawakkil caused Damietta to be fortified, and transferred his own residence to Damascus, doubtless that he might be able to keep a closer watch on the proceedings of the Byzantines. He soon thought himself strong enough to take the offensive, and poured his Turkish soldiery into Asia Minor, where they encountered the same Manuel who had been formerly received at the court of Mo’tasim. After an alteration of successes and reverses, both Molsems and Greeks retired from the conflict. Motawakkil then returned to his residence at Sorra-man-ra’a, and there caused a magnificent quarter to be built, which he called Ja’fariyya. Thee he gave himself up to debaucheries: till at last, during one of his orgies, he was murdered by a Turkish soldier named Wasif, who had been bribed to the deed by his own son Montasir billah (.A.H, A.D. 861-862).

11. On the very night of his father’s assassination Montasir had himself proclaimed Calips. The conspirators among the Turkish soldiery compelled him to deprive his two brothers, Mo’tazz and Mowayyad, who were not agreeable to them, of their rights of succession. Montasir did not long enjoy the fruits of his crime. He died five months after, by poison, it is said.
12. The Turkish soldiery, which now arrogated to itself the mastery over the Caliphate, chose in succession to Montasir his cousin Ahmed, who took the title of Mosta’in billah (He who looks for help to God). Under the reign of this feeble prince, the Greeks inflicted serious losses on the Moslem in Asia Minor. The Turkish soldiery, instead of attempting to repair these losses, revolted against the Caliph whom, they had themselves chosen, and plundered the city of Sorra-man-ra’a. Taking advantage of these disorders, a descendant of ‘Ali, named Hasan, gained possession of Tabaristan and Jorjan, and permanently deprived the Eastern Caliphate of those provinces. At the same time, insurrections sprang up in every part of the empire. Next, the chiefs of the Turkish soldiery, in their mutual jealousies, began to tear each other to pieces. The infatuated Caliph fled from Sorra-man-ra’a, and took refuge at Baghdad. The Turks now resolved on his destruction, and forgetting that they themselves had deprived Mo’tazz billah, brother of Montasir, of his legitimate rights, chose him as their Caliph. They next placed at their head a rbtoehr of Mo’tazz, named Mowaffak billah, and besieged Mosta’in at Baghdad. At the end of one month (A.H. 252, a.d. 866), Mosta’in surrendered, and wad put to death.

13. Mo’tazz billah, thus called to the throne by the very men who had previously sought to exclude him from it, resolved to free himself from the yoke of the formidable Turkish soldiery which thus made and unmade Caliphs. But to maintain a struggle against such terrible adversaries, the new sovereign would have needed an ability and energy which he did not posses. He made, indeed, a very impolitic beginning in getting rid of his brothers Mowayyad and Mowaffak, of whom he put the former to death, and drove the latter into exile. Some time after, it is true, he had the satisfaction of seeing Wasif, one of the chiefs of the Turkish soldiery, lose his life in a mutiny of his own troops; and that of defeating in person another chief, Bugha, whom he afterwards caused to be beheaded. But in the following year (A.H. 254), THE Turks chose as their leaders the sons of Wasif and Bugha, Salih and Mohammed who avenged their fathers by plundering the palace of the prime minister and besieging that of the Caliph, whom they seized and threw into close confinement, where he died of hunger and thirst, A.H. 255.

14. Immediately after the fall of Mo’tazz, the Turks brought from Baghdad one of the sons of Wathik billah, and proclaimed him Caliph, with the title of Mohtadi billah (Guided by God). Mohtadi, a man of noble and generous spirit, exerted himself, but in vain, to release his predecessor from prison. Having failed in this, he kept the precarious measure of power which his masters left him, and applied it to the regeneration of Moslem society, the decay of which appeared to him imminent. He forbade wine and games of chance; he devoted himself to the administration of justice; he examined in person every sentence passed by the judges, and gave public audience to the people twice for the redress of their grievances. The farmers of the revenue were subjected to strict control, and the taxes were considerably lightened. It seemed as if these reforms were likely to re-establish order and prosperity in the empire. But Mohtadi came too late, and the Turks did not leave him time to finish his work. Salih, one of the chiefs of the Turkish soldiery, having been assassinated by a rival, Mohtadi punished the guilty person with rigor. The Turks in their rage beset the palace and slaughtered the unfortunate Caliph (A.H. 256 A.D. 870).

15. Whether from weariness, or from repentance, the Turkish soldiery discontinued for a time their hateful excesses. A son of Motawwakil was brought-two years under the name of Mo’tamid ‘ala llah (He whose support is God). Dureing his reign two great events took place, tokens and precursors of the dissolution of the Caliphate. Eastern Persia and Egypt separated themselves by force from the empire, and two new dynasties established themselves in these countries, those respectively of the Saffarids and the Tulunids. The founder of the former, Ya’kub b. Laith, was the son of a coppersmith (Saffar). At the head of a band of resolute men, he invaded successively Khorasan, Kirman, and Sijistan, and at last the Caliph Mo’tamid, powerless to arrest his progress, was obliged to give an official recognition to accomplished facts. But Ya’kub was not satisfied with this; he soon possessed himself of Tabaristan, Farsistan, and Ahwaz, and thence marched against Baghdad. Fortune, however, deserted him; he was beaten in the neighborhood of Wasit (A.H. 262), and compelled to return to Persia in order to levy a new army there. In 265 he resumed his march against Baghdad, but was obliged by sickness to halt at Jondisabur, where he died; not, however, till he had obtained from the Caliph a formal investiture of all the provinces he had conquered. He was succeeded by his brother ‘Amr. On the other side, a certain Ahmed b. Tulun, the son of a freedman, who had obtained from the Caliphs the post of governor of Egypt, planned the creation for himself of an independent kingdom. Under Mo’tamid he even invaded Syria, and perhaps would have pushed his conquests still farther, had not death overtaken him in A.H. 270 (A.D. 883-884). His son Khomaruya succeeded him in Egypt, and though, at a later period, he submitted to pay tribute to Mo’tadid, nevertheless a dynasty had been founded in that country which lasted for twenty-one years longer. Mo’tamid died eight years after Ahmed b. Tulun.

16. The reign of Mo’tadid billah (He who seeks his support in God), who succeeded his uncle Mo’tamid, is principally remarkable for the rise of the celebrated sect of the Carmathians (Karamita), who for two centuries laid waste the Moslem empire, and for the extinction of the Saffarid dynasty in Persia, where it was replaced by that of the Samanids. Some details respecting the origin and the creed of the Carmathians will be found in the third section of this article. We shall content ourselves here with stating the fact that these sectaries, who were numerous in ‘Irak, Syria, and Eastern Arabia, kept in check all the armies which were sent against them. Under the reign of Mo’tadid they invaded Mecca and committed great ravages there. In A.H. 281, Mo’tadid repaired the disaster s which they had caused there, and raised important works about the Ka’ba. Mo’tadid died in 289 (A.D. 902), leaving the throne to his son Moktaff billah.

17. Moktafi billah (He who sufficeth himself in God) reigned for six years, during which he had constantly to struggle against the Carmathians. One of his generals, indeed, gained a signal victory over these sectaries; but, to avenge their defeat, they lay in wait for a caravan which was on its return from Mecca, and massacred twenty thousand pilgrims. This horrible crime raised the whole of Arabia against them. the Carmathians were beaten again, and Dhikruya, one of their ablest generals, was taken and put to death. The sectaries remained quiet for some time, and the Caliph took advantage of this respite to take Egypt from the house of Tulun, and co confer its government on the Ikhshidites. Moktafi died A.H. 295 (A.D. 907-908). His activity and energy revived for a moment the prestige of the Caliphate; but this fleeting renewal of its greatness was soon to disappear, and decay resumed its course.

18. The new Caliph, Moktadir billah (Powerful through God), was only thirteen years of age when he ascended the throne. His extreme youth prejudiced the people of Baghdad against him; they rebelled, and swore allegiance to ‘Abdallah, son of the former Calipp Mo’tazz; but the party of Moktadir prevailed, and his rival was put to death. Moktadir, however, was too young to exercise any real power; he was governed by his ennuchs. He was, besides, a man of feeble character, and looked on helplessly at the death-struggle of the empire, upon which calamities of every kind now poured in. The Greeks invaded Mesopotamia. A truce was concluded with them; but the Carmathians then recommenced their disorders in Syria. The indolence of the Caliph, and his inaction in the face of this danger, alienated all hearts from him; and the eunuch Munis, the principal chief of his party, took the lead in deposing him and proclaiming in his stead his brother Kahir billah (Victorious through God), in the year 317 (A.D. 929-930). Kahir, however, having refused to distribute a donative to the army on the occasion of his accession, a counter-revolution took place, and Moktadir, who had been imprisoned, was taken from his dungeon and replaced on the throne, only three days after his deposition. Favored by these disturbances, the governor of Mosul, Nasir al-Daula, declared himself independent, and founded definitely the dynasty of the Hamdanites; thus causing an additional dismemberment of the empire. The Carmathians in their turn, under the guidance of a new chief, Abu Tahir, obtained possession of Mecca, and carried off the celebrated black stone of the Ka’ba, which they did not restore till very long afterwards. Menawhile the eunuch Munis had been disgraced. He withdraw at first to Mosul, to the court of Nasir al-Daula; but it was to raise an army and march upon Baghdad, where the Caliph had again fixed his abode. The object of Munis was not to attack the Caliph, but only to take vengeance on his personal enemies. Moktadir was induced by evil counselors to make a sally against Munis. His troops were put to the rout, and he himself fell on the field of battle, in the year 320 (A.D. 932).

With the reign of Moktadir is connected one of the greatest events in the history of the Caliphate, the foundation of the Fatimite dynasty, which reigned, first in the Maghrib and then in Egypt, for nearly three centuries. The first of this family who put forward any pretensions to the Caliphate was ‘Obaid Allah, surnamed the Mahdi, or Messiah of the followers of ‘Ali, who gave himself out as a direct descendant of ‘Ali, though his wife Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed, whence the name of Fatimite. It sems tobe proved that ‘Obaid Allah was rallydescended from a certain ‘Abdallah b. Maimun el-Kaddah, the founder of the Ismailian sect, of which the Carmathians were only a branch. This ‘Obaid Allah had himself become pontiff of the Ismailians. As early as the Caliphate of Moktafi, one of ‘Obaid Allah’s missionaries, named Abu ‘Abdallah, had succeeded in gaining numerous partisans in the province of Africa, then subject to the Aghbites, and the victories of this missionary had wrested Eastern Africa from the family of Aghlab when Moktadir ascended the throne. ‘Obaid Allah then repaired to his new realm (A.H. 303), and founded the city of Mahdiva, which he made his capital. He tried also, but without success, to seize Egypt; the conquest of that country was reserved for one of his successors, Mo’izz li-din-illah. ‘Obaid Allah died two years after Moktadir, leaving to his son Kaim an empire already sufficiently powerful to cause uneasiness to the ‘Abbasids, to the Omayyads of Spain, and to all the Christian princes whose states bordered on the Mediterranean.

19. Kahir billah, on being raised anew to the throne after the death of hisbrother Moktadir, still bore ill-will to his patrons, and tried to free himself from their guardnship. The emirs of his court dethroned him a second time and put out hiseyes. One of his nephews was then proclaimed Caliph under the name of Radi billah (Content through God). This prince, who was entirely governed by those about his person, created, in favor of a certain Abubker Mohammed b. Raik, the office of Amir al-Omara, or Emir of the Emirs, which nearly corresponds to that of Mayor of the Palace among the Franks. The Amir al-Omara was charged with the administration of civil and military affairs. He also acted as the Caliph’s deputy in sacerdotal functions, and was named next after him in the public prayers. Thenceforth the Caliphate was no longer anything but an empty shadow. During the reigns of Kahir and Radi, the Carmathians became more audacious than ever. The Amir al-Omara obliged to purchase from them the freedom of pilgrimage to Mecca at the price of a disgraceful treaty. Thus the Caliphate found itself almost reduced to the province of Baghdad. Khorasan, Transoxiana, Kirman, and Persia were in the hands of independent sovereigns, the Samanids, the Buyids, and a prince named Washimgir. The Hamdanites possessed Mosepotamia; the Sajites, Armenia; Egypt was under the rule of the Ikhshidites; Arabia was held by the Carmathians; Africa, as we have seen, had become the prey of the Fatimites. The single transient success obtained by Radi was the capture of Mosul in A.H. 328 (A.D. 939-49); and even this success he owed to the Turk Beiken, who had succeeded Mohammed b. Raik as Amir al-Omara.

Radi died in the following year, and was succeeded by Mottaki lilah (He who fears God). From his very accession, this prince saw himself exposed to the attacks of a certain Al-Baridi, who had carved out for himself a principality in Chaldaea, and who now laid siege to Baghdad. Nasir al-Daula prince of Mosul, who had been reinstated in his government, offered an asylum to Mottaki; put his troops at his disposal, and succeeded in repelling. Al-Baridi. In return he obtained the office of Amir al-Omara. But there were other competitors for that post. Turun, a former lieutenant of Bejkem, protested sword in hand against the choice of the Caliph, and threatened Baghdad. Ikhshid, sovereign of Egypt, offered Mottaki a refuge in his states; but Turun, fearing to see the Caliph obtain such powerful support, found means to entice him to his tent, and had his eyes put out, A.H. 333 (A.D. 944-945)

As successor to Mottaki, Turun chose Mostakfi billah (He who places his whole trust in God). This prince, like his predecessors, was a mere puppet in the hands f his ministers. A new Amir al-Omara, Zirak b. Shirzad, made himself so hateful to the people of Baghdad by his deeds of violence and rapacity that they besought the help of the Buyids. Ahmed, then third prince of that dynasty, entered Baghdad, overthrew Zirak, and took his place under the title of Mo’izz al-Daula. Mostakti soon had enough of this new master, and ventured to conspire against him. The plot was discovered, and Mo’izz al-Daula had the eyes of the Caliph put out. There were now at Baghdad three Caliphs who had been dethroned and blinded-Kahir, Mottaki, and Mostakti. Mo’;izz al-Daula thought for a moment of restoring the illusory title of Caliph to the descendants of ‘Ali. He feared, however, lest this should lead to the recovery by the Caliphs of their former supremacy, and his choice fell on a son of Moktadir under the name of Moti lillah (He who obeys God). Reserving to himself all the powers and revenues of the Caliph, he allowed Moti merely a secretary and a moderate pension. The prince of Mosul, who began to think his possessions threatened by the neighborhood of Mo’izz, entered on a struggle with him and tried to wrest Baghdad from him; but he failed, and was obliged to submit to the payment of tribute. We have said above that Mo’izz al-Daula professed a great veneration for the house of ‘Ali. His preference showed itself in public acts. He caused the most terrible imprecations against the Omayyads to be posted up at the doors of the mosques. This step irritated men’s minds; and a general insurrection was imminent at Baghdad, when Mo’izz died (A.H. 356), leaving his power to his son ‘Izz al-Daula.

While the ‘Abbasid family was thus dying out in shame and degradation, the Fatimites, in the person of Mo’izz li-din-illah, were reaching the highest degree of power and glory (see Egypt, vol. vii. p. 750 sqq.) Jauhar, a general of Mo’izz li-din-illah, conquered Egypt for his master, and Arabia acknowledged the sovereignty of the Fatimites. The carmathians, who had so long contended against the ‘Abbasids, now come to better terms with Moti, and their general made the Caliph the offer of driving back the Fatimites, on condition of his granting him the government of Egypt. Moti preferred to stand neutral in the struggle; and the Carmathian general, who with the support of Moti might perhaps have triumphed over Mo’izz, was beaten by his powerful rival. Moti, having been struck by paralysis, was obliged to abdicate in the year 363 (A.D. 973-974), and left the empty title of Caliph to his son Tai li-amr-illah (Obedient to the command of God). The new Caliph lived at first in peace, for it was now the office of Amir-al-Omara which provoked ill-will. Under the reign of Tai the Buyid princes contented furiously with one another for the office of Emir, and one of them, ‘Adod al-Daula, having conquered ‘Izz al-Daula, took the title, never before employed, of Shahinshah, or king of kings. On his death he transmitted his office to his three sons, who held it successively, under the names of Shams al-Daula Sharaf al-Daula, and Baha al-Daula. The last, who was as avaricious as he was ambitious, took offence at the Caliph Tai for having disposed of certain sums of money, of which he wished to reserve the management to himself, compelled him to abdicate in A.H. 381, and replaced him by a grandson of Moktadir, who took the name of Kadir billah (Powerful through God), and reigned forty one years under the tutelage of the Buyids. Meanwhile events were preparing the fall of the Buyids. In Persia, Mahmud of Ghazni was founding the powerful empire of the Ghaznevids, which extended to the Indus, and the Seljuk Turks were already invading Khorasan. It was under the successor of Kadirbillah that that sanguinary revolution took place,which was to give over the government of Baghdad to the Seljuks.

Kadir billah died in A.H. 422 (A.D. 1030-31), and was succeeded by Kaim bi-amr-illah (He who is charged with the business of God). The new Caliph, groaning under the iron hand of his Amir al-Omara, called to his aid the Seljuk Beg, who entered Baghdad in the month of Ramadan in the year 447 (A.D. 1055-1056), OVERTHREW THE Buyids, and took their place. some years later, Toghril married the daughter of the Caliph. At his death, Toghril left to his nephew Alp Arslan the title of Sultan, a flourishing empire, and uncon trolled power. As for Kaim, he enjoiyed the Caliphate in peace under the tutelage of Alp Arslan and of his successor Malik Shah, till his death in A.H. 467. His grandson, Moktadi bu-amr-illah (He who obeys the orders of God), who succeeded him, owed to the power of Malik Shah the honor of recovering his supremacy in Arabia. At Medina and Mecca his name was substituted in the public prayers for those of the Fatimite Caliphs. This was, after all, a mere gratification to his vanity, for Malik Shah was the real sovereign, and the Caliph thought himself highly honored in marrying the daughter of his powerful patron. This union, however, far from drawing closer the bonds of friendship between Malik Shah and Moktadi, became on the contrary a cause of strike. The Caliph having put away his wife, who had wearied him by her peevish humors, was compelled by Malik Shah to appoint the child whom he had had by her as his successor, to the prejudice of his eldest son. Malik Shah also exiledhis son-in-law to Basra. Just, however, as this order was about to be carried out, Malik Shah died. Moktadi survived him only a few months. It was during the reign of his successor Mostazhir billah (A.H. 487-512) that the first crusade took place. We need not here enter into the details of those wars. It is sufficient to say that from the date of the first crusade Baghdad ceases, so to speak, to have any special history. The successors of Mostazhir billah (He who seeks to triumph through God) were – Mostarshid billah (He who asks guidance from God), A.H. 512-529; Rashidbillah (Just through God), A.H. 529-530; Moktafi li-amr-illah (He who follows the orders of God ) A.H. 530-555; Mostanjid billah (He who invokes help from God(, A.H. 555-566; and Mostadi’ bi-amr-illah (He who seeks enlightenment in the orders of God), A.H. 566-575. under this last, the Fastimite dynasty was at length destroyed, and Egypt fell again under the spiritua authority of the Caliphs of Baghdad. It was one of the generals of the Emir Nur al-din, the celebrated Salah al-din (Saladin), who made this important conquest in A.H. 567 (A.D. 1171-1172). He maintained himself in Egypt as Sultan, founded a new dynasty, that of the Ayyubites, and in some sort compelled Nasir li-din illah (He who helps the religion of God), the successor of Mostadi (A.H. 575-622), to acknowledge his title and to ratify his usurpation.

A still more formidable danger was now threatening Baghdad. The terrible Jinghiz Khan was issuing from the depths of Asia at the head of his Mongols, and was beginning to invade Transoxiana. Under Nasir li-din-illah’s successors, Zahir billah (Victorious through God), A.H. 622-623, and Mostansir billah (He who asks help from God), A.H. 623-640, the Mongol invasion advanced with immense strides; and when, after them, Mosta’sim billah (He who seeks his defence in God) was named Caliph in the year 640 (A.D. 1242-1243), the last days of the Caliphate has arrived. Hulagu, who was then sovereign of the Mongols, determined to make himself master of the whole of Western Asia. He placed himself at the head of his immense hrdes, swept everything before him on his march, and arrived under the walls of Baghdad. In Vain did Mosta’sim sue for peace. The siege was actively pursued, and on the 29th of Moharram 656 (5th February 1258), the Mongols forced their way into Baghdad an planted the standard of Hulagu on the highest of its towers. The city was given up to fire and slaughter; Mosta’sim was thrown into prison, and died there a few days after; and with him expired the Eastern Caliphate, which had lasted 626 years, from the death of Mohammed.

In vain, three years later, did a scion of the race of the ‘Abbasids, who had taken refuge in Egypt, make an effort to restore a dynasty which was now for every extinct. At the head of a few followers, he marched against Baghdad, but was repulsed by the governor of that city, and died fighting. At a later period, another descendant of the ‘Abbasids, after a judicial investigation of his origin, proclaimed him Caliph under the name of Hakim, bi-amr-illah. His sons inherited this empty title, but, like their father, remained in Egypt, without power or influence. This shadow of sovereignty continued to exist till the conquest of Egypt by the Turks.


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